Today's climate and energy headlines:
- World will fail unless climate and nature crises are tackled together, says major report
- G7 leaders poised to turn spotlight on green finance at summit
- UK to provide Covid-19 vaccines for COP26 delegates
- US EPA to re-examine health standards for harmful soot
- China's economy to maintain medium to high rate of growth – central bank official
- Hoover Dam reservoir hits record low, in sign of extreme western US drought
- G7 wrestles with its climate limitations
- Biden pitched a bold climate vision. He may be watching it die in Congress.
- COP26: In a greening world, financial institutions must do more
- How green bottlenecks threaten the clean energy business
- Severity of drought and heatwave crop losses tripled over the last five decades in Europe
- Global coral reef ecosystems exhibit declining calcification and increasing primary productivity
A major new report warns that the dual challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss cannot be solved unless they are tackled together, the Independent reports. The peer-reviewed report is the first collaboration between the two UN scientific bodies of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the outlet explains. Together, the groups “warn that the world is currently not doing enough to recognise that the climate and nature crises are inextricably linked”, the Independent says, with the two often “treated as separate issues in the political arena”. The report identifies actions to tackle the two issues simultaneously, the Guardian says, including “expanding nature reserves and restoring – or halting the loss of – ecosystems rich in species and carbon, such as forests, natural grasslands and kelp forests”. The paper adds: “Food systems cause a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, and more sustainable farming is another important action, helped by the ending of destructive subsidies and rich nations eating less meat and cutting food waste.” The report also warns of “quick fixes” for climate change that risk harming nature, says BBC News, highlighting potential “climate and biodiversity fails”, such as misguided tree-planting and large-scale bioenergy crops. The i newspaper quotes report co-author Prof Camille Parmesan of Plymouth University, who warned that it is counterproductive to install “climate” measures that reduce biodiversity. She said: “Nature-based solutions are about being smart and thinking about what should be done where, and how to do that…Diverse healthy ecosystems not only work better, they store carbon better and they are more resilient to climate change.” BusinessGreen reports the comments of UK environment minister Zac Goldsmith, who said the findings highlighted the need for policymakers and businesses to tackle the nature and climate crises in tandem ahead of this autumn’s UN climate and nature talks. He said: “With the UN biodiversity conference in Kunming, and the Glasgow climate change conference in the UK, we have an opportunity and responsibility to put the world on a path to recovery.” In an analysis piece, the Independent‘s climate correspondent Daisy Dunne explores some of the reports 41 recommendations. The New York Times, Associated Press (via the Washington Post) and Reuters also cover the report.
In related news, the Daily Telegraph reports that two West Sussex councils are in negotiations with the Crown Estate to lease the seabed and restore a “historic carbon-storing kelp forest”.
A draft document seen by Bloomberg ahead of the G7 summit – which begins today – includes a commitment for “each” G7 member to increase its financial contributions to helping the poorest countries decarbonise their economies. The outlet explains: “The question of who pays to tackle climate change lies at the heart of global action. Poor countries say they need funding if they are to invest in the technologies needed to wean themselves off fossil fuels, while also dealing with the worst impacts of global warming, such as rising sea levels and heat waves.” While “specific contributions are still under discussion”, the outlet says a “strong declaration from the group could help build trust internationally”. At the same time, Reuters reports that chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday that Germany will contribute more money to international climate financing. She told a news conference after a meeting with the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states that “Germany has doubled its climate financing since 2015, so we are very well on track, but we will also contribute more”, the newswire says. In an interview in the Guardian, UN secretary general António Guterres has warned that it will be “impossible” to effectively deal with climate change without assistance for poorer countries. He tells the paper that the G7 will need to deliver the money to “rebuild trust” with developing nations. He said: “The $100bn is essential…Climate action has until now been centred on mitigation, on reducing emissions. But developing countries have huge problems in adaption from the existing impacts of climate change.”
Meanwhile, the Prince of Wales has hailed the G7 summit as a “game-changing opportunity” to help create a partnership between governments, business and private finance to finally tackle the “existential crisis” of climate change, reports the Press Association (via the Belfast Telegraph). The comments from the prince were made to a group of chief executives and business leaders gathered by the prince in preparation for the G7 meeting in Cornwall, the newswire explains. Meeting at St James’ Palace, the prince told the executives: “We do have a potentially game-changing opportunity to drive forward the partnerships between government, business and private sector finance that are of course absolutely vital if we are to win the battle to combat climate change and biodiversity loss.” He added that “the G7 is, of course, important both in itself and as a stepping stone to the G20 and then COP26; and it is hugely encouraging to see everyone in this room joining forces to ensure that ambition translates into action – at last”. The Guardian also covers the event, noting that the group of business leaders “will be invited to speak to the G7 leaders about the climate crisis – an unusual departure for the G7 meeting”. The paper also reports that Charles met John Kerry, the US climate envoy, yesterday.
In other G7 coverage, the Guardian reports that Number 10 was yesterday stressing that the summit “was not about Brexit, and there were much bigger issues at stake, including the climate crisis and the urgent need to vaccinate the world’s poorest against Covid”. The paper adds: “The shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, agreed there were much wider issues at stake. ‘It’s an important moment. It’s perhaps the most historic G7 in a generation, not just because of Covid, but because of climate change. This will be the moment when we will find out whether the G7 can lay the groundwork for an agreement at COP26 in five months’ time’.” The i newspaper reports that “Boris Johnson’s flight from London to Cornwall for the G7 summit is the latest in a series of short-haul air journeys that have left critics questioning the prime minister’s environmental credentials”.
The UK government announced yesterday that it is planning to provide Covid-19 vaccinations to delegates to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, Climate Home News reports. In a statement, the government said: “In order to enable more representatives to attend safely we will work to provide vaccines to those accredited delegations who would be unable to get them otherwise…We are exploring with the UN and partners how we can work together to deliver this offer.” Mulneh Ghedeto who is expected to attend COP26 on behalf of the Ethiopian government, tells Climate Home News this was “fascinating news for most of [the] delegates in the global South”. He added: “We will see how it unfolds, but it is the first step towards the right direction. The rollout undoubtedly requires working closely with ministry of health within each country as well as international agencies, including the UN.” The outlet notes that it is “not immediately clear whether the vaccine support would be extended to the civil society observers and journalists that typically attend climate summits or only national negotiating teams”.
Meanwhile, BusinessGreen reports that the UK government has today launched an education pack for schools “to encourage student climate leaders to come forward as an inspiration to others”.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said yesterday that it will re-examine health standards for harmful soot that the previous Trump administration had left unchanged, Reuters reports. The newswire continues: “This is the latest federal air and water regulation that the Biden administration will revisit after the Trump administration either rolled back standards or left them unchanged. The Biden administration will examine the December 2020 decision that left the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter, or soot, unchanged.” It adds: “Exposure to soot and fine particulate matter, which can come from coal-fired power and industrial plants and vehicle tail pipes, has been linked to health issues ranging from asthma to heart attacks.” In a statement, EPA administrator Michael S Regan said: “The most vulnerable among us are most at risk from exposure to particulate matter, and that’s why it’s so important we take a hard look at these standards that haven’t been updated in nine years,” reports the New York Times. The Hill adds that “the EPA said that it anticipates proposing a new rule next summer and promulgating a final rule in spring 2023”.
Liu Guiping, the deputy governor of China’s central bank, has said that the pressure for the nation to reduce its carbon emissions “will grow in the future” due to its “significant room for growth” in per-capita energy demand, according to Reuters. Liu noted that it “will be difficult” for China’s carbon emissions to “drop sharply” after reaching a peak, the newswire adds. Liu also said that a “clear total carbon emissions target” must be set “as early as possible” to guide the market and form “clear pricing signals”, Reuters writes in another another report in Chinese.
Meanwhile, Prof Sun Shigang, a Chinese physicist, has said that the hydrogen industry faces “great opportunities” in China under President Xi’s climate goals. Prof Sun tells China’s National Business Daily that the nation needs to “increase its efforts in every step of the research of hydrogen energy”. Xinhua reports that a “leading US expert” has said that some of the actions the Chinese government is taking – such as its renewable energy policy – are “hugely important” for fighting climate change. The state news agency cites David Sandalow, an inaugural fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.
The southern province of Yunnan is gradually lifting power rationing on some key industries, reports Jiemian News, citing an official instruction. The Yunnan Power Grid said that it would resume some of the electricity supply to sectors including single-crystal silicon, iron and steel, non-ferrous metal smelting and cement using a tiered manner, the report says. Some southern regions, including Yunnan, had to control their electricity use from late last month to deal with “record-breaking” power consumption. Carbon Brief’s China Briefing has explained the causes behind the phenomenon.
Elsewhere, Reuters reports that China’s state-owned energy and infrastructure giant China Three Gorges is planning a foray into the Spanish electricity retail market and “seeks to buy an independent retailer already operating in Spain”. In related news, the Financial Times Lex column says that an initial public offering for China Three Gorges (CTG) Renewables – a unit of China Three Gorges Corporation – “performed well” on its first day of trading yesterday. Bloomberg reports that shares “surged 44%, the daily limit, in its trading debut as investors sought to gain from the country’s push toward cleaner energy”.
Finally, a very short Reuters news article reports that “China will no longer grant subsidies for new solar power stations, distributed solar projects by commercial users or onshore wind projects from the central government budget in 2021, the state planner said in a statement on Friday”. It adds: “Electricity generated from the new projects will be sold at local benchmark coal-fired power prices or at market prices, the statement said. The new rule will take effective from 1 August.” And Reuters reports that China has “sent officials to inspect coal inventories and crack down on illicit hoarding at ports, following a surge of physical coal prices and tight supplies in the market ahead of the peak consumption season”.
The reservoir created by Hoover Dam in the US has sunk to its lowest level ever, reports Reuters, “underscoring the gravity of the extreme drought across the US West”. The newswire notes that the surface of Lake Mead – formed in the 1930s from the damming of the Colorado River at the Nevada-Arizona border – fell to 1,071 feet above sea level yesterday morning, “dipping below the previous record low set on July 1, 2016”. The lake level has “fallen 140 feet (43 metres) since 2000 – nearly the height of the Statue of Liberty from torch to base – exposing a bathtub ring of bleached-white embankments”, the outlet says. The drought that has brought the Lake Mead low “has gripped California, the Pacific Northwest, the Great Basin spanning Nevada, Oregon and Utah, plus the southwestern states of Arizona and New Mexico and even part of the Northern Plains”, the outlet says, adding: “Farmers are abandoning crops, Nevada is banning the watering of about one-third of the lawn in the Las Vegas area, and the governor of Utah is literally asking people to pray for rain.” Bloomberg notes that the Hoover Dam “provides power for nearly 8 million people in Arizona, Southern California and Nevada. Its capacity, normally 2,000 megawatts, has slipped 25% to 1,500 megawatts, as the reservoir level slides”. The Hill also has the story.
The leaders of the G7 countries face “an uncomfortable reality at the G7 summit this weekend: the future is not in their hands”, write Politico’s senior climate correspondent Karl Mathiesen and chief Brussels correspondent David M Herszenhorn in a feature. Attempts to tackle climate change “will be decided largely in Beijing, Delhi, Brasilia, Abuja, Pretoria and Jakarta”, they write, noting that, while the G7 countries are “responsible for the bulk of historical emissions, by dint of cutting down at home while emissions keep rising elsewhere, they now create a dwindling share of planet-heating greenhouse gases”. Instead, “power and relevance are shifting from the G7 to the broader G20, or even to countries like Nigeria that have yet to qualify for any of the elite geopolitical clubs”, they argue. The piece continues: “Ahead of November’s COP26 global climate conference in Glasgow, the UK is asking all countries to raise their climate goals. Developing countries have traditionally viewed such appeals with scepticism. Send money, they say, and we’ll clean up the problem rich, developed nations created.” However, “G7 countries have been slow to stump up the cash”, Mathiesen and Herszenhorn say: “Leaders are expected this week to reiterate a collective developed country commitment to deliver $100bn in public climate finance every year. But they were supposed to do that by last year, and missed the mark by around $20bn.” The unreliability to fill this gap – combined with “the climate scars” left by former President Trump, “undermines the group’s efforts to export its climate ambition to the rest of the world”, they warn. Politico energy reporter Zack Colman picks out climate finance is one of four “climate obstacles” facing President Biden at the G7.
Elsewhere, a Financial Times editorial makes a similar point on international climate finance, arguing that “concrete, quantifiable pledges are needed” at the G7 meeting. It says: “Pressure is building ahead of the COP26 climate talks due in Glasgow in November, but money is proving a stumbling block. Wealthy countries promised as far back as 2009 to mobilise $100bn a year by 2020 to help poorer nations adapt to warming temperatures and acquire the technologies needed to cut their own emissions. It is now June 2021 and the latest estimates suggest those nations are still about $20bn short of meeting that pledge. This is complicating efforts to secure stronger climate action in Glasgow.” The UK government’s “misguided” move to cut its international aid budget “is not helping”, the paper notes. The response from G7 finance ministers last weekend “was disappointingly vague”, the FT says, adding: “They reaffirmed the $100bn annual commitment and vowed to ‘increase and improve’ climate finance contributions through to 2025, without saying precisely what this would entail.” (The New York Times reports on how prime minister Boris Johnson is “fighting a nasty, rather more earthbound battle at home over his pandemic-driven decision to cut Britain’s spending on foreign aid by a third, or more than $4bn, a year”.)
An editorial in the Independent says that President Biden is the “man for this moment” at the G7. It says: “Unlike his predecessor, Mr Biden has a sense of decorum, and of perspective. The climate emergency is, after all, the transcendent issue facing the planet; and rather more portentous than Britain’s trading arrangements with the European Union – or even the Irish peace process Fortunately there is every indication that the G7 – representing most of global GDP – will indeed take a lead on limiting emissions of greenhouse gases, another step on the road to the COP26 conference on Glasgow in November. For the first time in many years there is a real sense of international purpose on the environment, with even China and Russia now conceding at least the problem exists.”
Finally, Fiona Harvey – environment correspondent at the Guardian – looks at how the G7 leaders face a “make-or-break moment” on climate change.
President Joe Biden “clearly wants to be a climate president”, writes Politico senior staff writer Michael Grunwald, but the “proposed extraordinary climate investments in his infrastructure plan” are at risk of being thrown “under a fossil-fuelled bus”. Congress has not passed his plan “or even unveiled a draft”, says Grunwald, and “now that Biden has ended one effort to negotiate a bipartisan infrastructure deal only to begin another, climate hawks are starting to worry”. He continues: “For all of Biden’s green goals, green team and green executive orders, the centrepiece of his green agenda is his proposal to throw hundreds of billions of dollars at the climate crisis through his American Jobs Plan, and it’s hard to see a path where a Republican-supported infrastructure bill would spend that freely to slash greenhouse gas emissions.” Climate activists are worried that proposals for “about $1tn for wind, solar, electric vehicles and other accelerants for the clean energy transition” will be thrown “overboard to mollify Republicans and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the coal-friendly centrist Democrat whose vote can essentially decide what’s allowed to pass in an evenly divided Senate”, writes Grunwald. Behind the scenes, “White House officials have urged environmentalists to trust Biden and his long history of Washington sausage-making”, Grunwald says, but “all the cheery deal talk is bringing back bad Democratic memories of 2009, when bipartisan support for President Barack Obama’s market-friendly climate bill never materialised, and the bill crashed and burned on the Hill”.
In related news, the Washington Post reports that former vice president Al Gore called Biden to urge him to keep climate-focused policies in his infrastructure bill. The Hill also has the story. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that a bipartisan group of 10 US senators said yesterday that it had reached agreement on a framework for a proposed infrastructure spending bill that would not include any tax increases. The newswire adds: “The group of five Republicans and five Democrats gave no details, but a source familiar with the deal said it would cost $974bn over five years and $1.2tn over eight years, and includes $579bn in new spending. The senators said they were discussing their approach with their colleagues and the White House, and they were optimistic about getting broad support.”
Bloomberg has published an opinion piece by Alok Sharma, the COP26 president-designate, in which he argues that it “is in the interests of private finance to invest in that future”. He continues: “The entire financial sector needs to map out a pathway to sustainability if we’re to secure that greener, more profitable future. That’s why, alongside former Bank of England governor Mark Carney and the UN High Level Climate Action Champions, I issued a call for private financial institutions to grasp the opportunity for action over the next six months.” He presents five suggestions for the sector, which include: “New finance must flow to developing countries and emerging markets, where it is needed most. There is nearly $23tn in opportunities for climate-smart investments in emerging markets between now and 2030…[And] financial institutions should urgently step away from coal, a relic of a bygone age. Renewables are the only energy source for which demand increased in 2020 despite the pandemic…Finally, financial decisions should consider the natural world around us. Firms should commit to zero deforestation impacts across portfolios by 2025 and become ‘nature positive’ by 2030.”
Supply-side problems – such as scarce metals and land constraints – “threaten to slow the green-energy boom”, warns an Economist editorial. It continues: “Far from being transitory, these bottlenecks risk becoming a recurring feature of the world economy for years to come because the shift to a cleaner energy system is still only in its infancy. Governments must respond to these market signals, facilitating a huge private-sector investment boom over the next decade that increases capacity. If they don’t, they stand little chance of keeping their promises to reach ‘net-zero’ emissions.” Some of the figures for what is needed in the coming decade are “mind-concentrating”, the piece says: “To stay on track for net-zero, by 2030 annual production of electric vehicles needs to be 10 times higher than it was last year and the number of roadside charging stations 31 times bigger. The installed base of renewable-power generation needs to rise three-fold. Global mining firms may have to raise the annual production of critical minerals by 500%. Perhaps 2% of America’s land will have to be blanketed in turbines and solar panels.” All this “will require vast investment”, the Economist warns, but “it takes too long to get projects approved and their expected risk and returns are still too opaque”. The piece argues that government should “catalyse a bigger surge in private investment” by “easing planning rules” and helping “companies and investors deal with risks” to speed”. It concludes: “A powerful push is now needed to help make the revolution happen.” The Economist also has a briefing that goes into more detail.
A new study shows that coral reefs around the world could become “net dissolving” in the next 25 years. Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of more than 50 case studies of coral reef ecosystems dating back to 1970 to determine rates of change in key coral ecosystem indicators. They found that many reefs demonstrated both a decrease in net calcification and an increase in organic productivity, which can indicate the growing dominance of algae in the ecosystem. The authors conclude: “coral reef ecosystems are experiencing a shift in their essential metabolic processes” that, if they continue at their current rate, could lead to net reef dissolution around 2054.
Crop losses due to severe drought and heatwaves have “roughly tripled” in Europe over the last 50 years, according to a new study. Researchers used the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s FAOSTAT data and a database of extreme weather events to examine crop losses due to four types of extreme weather: drought, floods, heatwaves and cold spells. They found that, while the frequency of each type of event has increased since 1961, the biggest increases in crop loss were due to droughts and heatwaves. These changes in crop yield can “possibly be explained” by a combination of increased vulnerability and climate change, the authors write.
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